Ever since the creation of Coca-Cola in 1886, the precise recipe has been a closely guarded secret.
The only official written copy is supposedly held in a U.S. bank vault and only two company employees at any one time are said to know the whole formula that gives the fizzy drink its distinctive flavour.
But now, 125 years of near-total secrecy look to be over, as a website claims to have uncovered a list showing the ingredients and quantities used to make the drink.
The list, it claims, was actually published without fanfare in a 1979 local newspaper article in Coca-Cola’s U.S. home town of Atlanta, Georgia – but no one appeared to realise its significance.
The website, Thisamericanlife.org, said the 32-year-old article – buried on Page 28 of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution – shows a photograph of a recipe purported to be an exact replica of Coca-Cola creator John Pemberton’s.
The recipe had apparently been written by a friend of pharmacist Mr Pemberton’s then passed down through the generations. A can of Coca-Cola currently simply refers to its specialist ingredients as ‘Natural flavourings including caffeine’ alongside carbonated water, sugar, phosphoric acid and colour (Caramel E150d).
Thisamericanlife.org consulted historian Mark Pendergrast, who has written a history of the drink and believes the recipe could be, as Coca-Cola’s famous slogan goes, the real thing.
He said: ‘I think that it certainly is a version of the formula.’
Should he be right, it would unlock the key to one of the world’s most recognisable brands, which is sold in more than 200 countries. In 2010 Coca-Cola became the first brand to top £1billion in annual UK grocery sales.